Cream or Gel Moisturizer: Which formula is right for you?

We already know that adding moisturizer to our skin care routine is a must but with so many options available, it can be a challenge to find the right one to suit your needs. If you’re searching for the best moisturizer, narrow down your choices by figuring out whether you should be using a traditional cream formula or the more modern gel formula. Let’s start by answering these questions!

What’s your preferred base ingredient?

Creams are semisolid emulsions made by combining oil and water. Before you decide to skip this formula completely, hear me out! Though an overly oily face can be a skin issue, you actually do need some lubrication to keep your skin supple and healthy. That’s why oil cleansing is a legit option for you to consider adding to your beauty routine!

On the other hand, gels are basically just made of water with a bit of gelling agent added for structure. As a result, it doesn’t usually have that rich, buttery texture that cream moisturizers have. Both formulas can be washed off by water, though the oils in the cream make it a bit more resistant. 

How do you store your skin care products?

Because of the oil content, cream moisturizers can go rancid if kept in areas with a high-temperature. If your dresser is near a window or in a hot part of the house, it may be a good idea to store your moisturizer in the fridge instead. The cold will make it a pleasure to apply, too!

If you’re the type to forget about capping products properly, better lose that bad habit fast! The water in gel moisturizers will just evaporate if you don’t close the lid tightly.


Which texture are you more comfortable with?

Hate that sticky feeling? A water-based gel moisturizer is more quickly absorbed by the skin. It leaves no greasy residue as well! But because it's mostly just water, it also evaporates from your skin after a couple of hours, making it necessary to apply more frequently.

Cream moisturizers have a tendency to feel thick and heavy, making them a bane to use in a tropical country. But those same attributes also make them a great choice for night-time use! The oil helps seal the moisture in, and keeps the product in contact with your skin for much longer. This also gives you more time to absorb the benefits of its ingredients.

What sort of moisturizing power do you need?

Creams have oil in them, so they generally moisturize better than gels. If you have very dry patches, this is the best formula for you. Apply in small amounts so you don’t end up putting too much on.

Gels are refreshing and feel very light on the skin, and some even have a cooling effect to help you deal with the heat. They’re also a great option if you’re constantly rushing to get ready in the morning, and don’t have much time to wait for your moisturizer to get absorbed before putting on your makeup.

So what should you choose?

There is no one answer to this. It all depends on your needs and preferences. If you have oily or combination skin, or have eczema or a bad case of milia, your best bet is to use a gel moisturizer that won’t clog pores and aggravate other skin conditions.

For those with dry skin, it’s still best to use cream. Without the barrier that oils provide, gels are often unable to provide the moisturizing power that your skin requires. There are exceptions to this, of course. Some gel moisturizers are now formulated with a bit of oil in them to provide a better moisturizing effect.

Unable to choose just one? Get one of each, and use gel for daytime and cream for nighttime. You can even opt to switch between products depending on the weather! We're well into the rainy season so we can benefit from a more hydrating product.

Which products should you try?

For cream moisturizers, a great option is Origins’ Dr. Andrew Weil’s Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Face Lotion, which is made of organic ingredients. Despite being a cream, it has a light texture, and it has a soothing effect that calms any redness. I tried this at the Origins Masking Party and it’s really good! You should also check out Burt’s Bees Anti-Blemish Solutions Daily Moisturizing Lotion (P1450), which works very well on acne-prone and sensitive skin.

We have a lot of great gel moisturizer picks that Liz swears by. Estee Lauder’s Nutritious Rosy Prism Radiant Gel Emulsion (P3750) is a bit of a splurge but worth every penny. It has the lightest of gel formulas, and brightens the complexion, too! For more affordable options, try Nature Republic’s Soothing and Moisture Aloe Vera 92% Soothing Gel or Tony Moly’s Pure Eco Aloe Gel (P348). These options work really well and they are super sulit!

I definitely recommend consulting your dermatologist whenever possible, but I hope this gave you a better idea of what to look for when shopping for a moisturizer. Did it help you make a decision? Are you going with cream or choosing gel?

Sources: Ansel's Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms and Drug Delivery SystemsU.S. Pharmacopeial ConventionPharmacology: Principles and ApplicationsThe CoveteurPaula’s ChoiceSkincareQC